Did courageous U.S. Marine hero have roots here in Cork?

In the history of the United States Marine Corps, Sergeant Daniel Daly is considered a legend, writes Trevor Laffan
Did courageous U.S. Marine hero have roots here in Cork?

WAR HERO: Sergeant Major Daniel ‘Dan’ Joseph Daly may have been born in Crookstown

SERGEANT Major Daniel ‘Dan’ Joseph Daly is a very famous name in the USA.

He was a Marine who, a century ago, won more awards for bravery than you could shake a stick at, and they say he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of enemy soldiers.

In one incident in Haiti in 1915, he is reputed to have killed seven men with his knife while recovering a large machine gun from the enemy.

On another occasion, he singlehandedly defended a post until reinforcements arrived and he rescued several men while under fire and brought them to safety.

Few have heard of him in this neck of the woods, which is strange because Sgt Major Dan Daly may have been born in Cork, near Crookstown.

A gentleman in Co. Kilkenny was researching his ancestral heritage when he came across information indicating Daly could have been Irish by birth.

He discovered that a John Daly and his wife Ellen, who lived near Cloughduv, had emigrated to America in the 1800s. They had a child, but didn’t register him with the authorities until he was three years old and so, for the rest of his life, he would be three years older than was stated on his birth certificate.

It seems that boy could have grown up to become the famous Marine.

In the history of the United States Marine Corps, Sergeant Daniel Daly is considered a legend. He earned enough awards to decorate a small army, so he must have been something special.

He wasn’t a big man in the physical sense, he was only 5ft 6in and about 9 stone, or 135 pounds, but he had plenty of courage and was a natural born leader.

Daly was fearless and respected among officers and enlisted men, and epitomized what it meant to be a Marine.

He received the Medal of Honour, the Nation’s highest military award, not once but twice, for separate acts of heroism. He also received the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, three Letters of Commendation and a Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars.

As if that wasn’t enough, Daly also received a China Relief Expedition Medal, a Philippine Campaign Medal, an Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star, a Mexican Service Medal, a Haitian Campaign Medal, a World War I Victory Medal with Aisne, St Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Defensive-Sector clasps, a Medaille Militaire, a Croix de Guerre with Palm and the Fourragere.

He could have capitalised on his fame, but he didn’t like publicity and he described the fuss made over him as “a lot of foolishness”.

Daly’s colleagues described him as a strict disciplinarian, but fair at the same time. They say he had a reckless daring but was always concerned about his men.

He was offered a commission on several occasions, but said that he would prefer to be “an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”

During desperate fighting in World War I in 1918, while the Americans were taking a severe beating when outnumbered, outgunned, and pinned down, Sergeant Major Daly ordered an attack and shouted to his tired men: “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

It was a battle cry he denied ever using because an NCO in the US Marines did not use bad language.

In May, 1900, Daly landed in China with the U.S. Marines. He was part of the U.S. Embassy Guard in Peking when the Boxer Rebellion broke out. In one of the most memorable acts of that war, the Boxers surrounded the compound of the foreign legations in Peking and laid siege to it for 55 days.

At one point, when German Marines of the German embassy were forced back, Daly by himself took a position in a bastion on the Tarter Wall and remained there throughout the night, despite being subjected to sniper fire and numerous attacks.

When relieved in the morning, Daly was still holding his position with the bodies of numerous attackers surrounding his position. For this, he was awarded his first Medal of Honour.

His second Medal of Honour came 15 years later in 1915, when he was fighting with U.S forces supporting the government in Haiti against rebels. One night, he was part of a group of 35 Marines ambushed by a force of approximately 400 Haitian insurgents. Daly led one of the three groups of men during the fight to reach a nearby fort and was awarded the medal for his bravery.

While on patrol in the same conflict, a Company of Marines were crossing a river when they were attacked by about 400 concealed insurgents. A horse that was carrying the heavy machine gun was shot and killed and lay in the river with the gun attached to him.

Dan Daly volunteered to recover the machine gun and they say he killed up to seven Cacos Rebels with just a knife while he was cutting the straps that held the machine gun in place.

With bullets hitting the water all around him, he returned to his Company with the machine gun strapped to his back.

At dawn the next day, the Marines advanced in three directions, surprising the Rebels and forcing them to scatter.

During World War I, at the battle of Belleau Wood, Dale risked his life to extinguish a fire in an ammunition dump. Two days later, he single-handedly attacked an enemy machine gun emplacement, capturing it using only hand grenades and an automatic pistol. In the course of that battle, he was wounded three times.

Sgt Major Dan Daly retired officially in 1929, and worked as a bank guard on Wall Street, New York City. He died at Glendale, Long Island, New York, on April 28, 1937, and his remains are buried in Cypress Hills.

Not a bad record for a lad from Crookstown, Co. Cork?

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